Though the Boston Celtics battled hard without star Rajon Rondo, their effort proved to be not enough, as the Brooklyn Nets soared in the fourth quarter to get a critical 101-97 win on Thursday night.
Playing without Rondo due to a sprained ankle, the Celtics came out a little flat and the Nets took advantage in the first half. With Boston struggling to adjust (especially defensively) without its star point guard, Brooklyn went into halftime ahead 59-50 and seemed to be taking control of the contest.
Nonetheless, as it's wont to do, Boston came roaring back with a dominant third quarter. Led by a brilliant quarter from Paul Pierce, the Celtics played the period plus-14 to go ahead 79-74 heading into the final 12 minutes.
From there, the well just dried back up on both ends of the floor for Boston. The team struggled once again struggled to create penetration in the middle without Rondo, turning the team almost exclusively into jump shooters. And with a solid defensive plan, the Nets took advantage and recaptured the lead for the final time with three minutes to play.
Brooklyn gets a win despite a relatively mediocre performance from Deron Williams. The Nets' star point guard went just 6-of-17 from the field, getting nine of his 24 points at the free-throw line.
Still, the win gives the Nets their fourth consecutive victory and has to be an encouraging sign going forward. Boston, meanwhile, will just be counting the days until Rondo returns to the lineup.
Player of the Game: Brook Lopez
While Williams didn't have his best performance, Brook Lopez was near-dominant on Thursday. The oft-criticized center scored 24 points on 11-of-14 shooting, which gives Lopez his third game scoring 20 or more points.
However, the most impressive stat of the night was Lopez's four blocks. That was his second straight game swatting four shots and has become an underrated presence in the middle for Brooklyn.
The one rub, as always, is his lack of rebounds. Lopez grabbed just six boards on Thursday, leaving Kris Humphries to do the dirty work under the basket to the tune of 13 rebounds.
Up Next for Celtics
Now sitting at 5-4, the Celtics get a day off before a home tilt against the Toronto Raptors on Saturday.
Up Next for Nets
Brooklyn will get to bask in its 5-2 glow for two days before hitting the road to play the Sacramento Kings on Sunday.